As football season is now underway, advisors might be thinking less about fantasy leagues and more about the kind of money sports figures make: When the money comes, it’s usually sudden, and it isn’t always consistent. For that reason, even though many professional athletes may earn more in a year than what many people see in a lifetime, they can still end up in dire financial straits.

A National Bureau of Economic Research report showed 15.7% of NFL players file for bankruptcy within 12 years of retiring, on average.

Athletes aren’t the only ones challenged by such a shock to the system. So are young professionals who get an IPO payday, as are heirs receiving an inheritance from a deceased relative, often while they’re still grieving.

The different financial windfall experiences run the gamut. The good news is that advisors can play the role of financial quarterback in helping these clients manage the emotional aspects of sudden wealth.

Take A Time-Out
Most people perceive a sudden money windfall as an inherently good thing. But it brings with it personal and financial challenges and requires decisions the newly affluent might find intimidating. That’s why experts at the Sudden Money Institute recommend that people take a time-out after they come into money—and during that time avoid decisions altogether so they can allow the emotional roller coaster of joy, guilt and euphoria to level out.

Let’s consider somebody who did it the right way: NFL legend Marshawn Lynch. The Portland, Ore., newspaper The Oregonian has reported that before he retired, Lynch did not spend the millions he made from his league contracts. Instead, he lived off the substantial paychecks he received from endorsement deals and the sale of merchandise sold under his personal band, “Beast Mode.” In 2020, he famously offered young NFL players some financial advice: “Take care of your chicken,” in other words, money.

Happy Versus Unhappy Money
After a client has had that period to cool off after a windfall, you’ll need to watch for “mental accounting,” a concept associated with economist Richard Thaler. According to this idea, we assign subjective value to our money in ways that are often less than rational, by “tagging” money with different emotions according to the way we received it.

Consider “pride-tagged” money—such as the bonus you got from work. Also known as “happy money,” it is the reward for your efforts and feels more “earned” than other windfalls, and that influences what you do with it. Research shows we’re more likely to spend these dollars on ourselves and not others. One example would be Shaquille O’Neal, who claimed to have spent several million dollars from one check in a single day on cars and jewelry.

Contrast that with “surprise money,” such as a large check from a relative on your birthday, gambling winnings or (most commonly) a tax refund. When these dollars hit our pockets, they can feel like an invitation to splurge. But you might also feel guilt and spend the money on others to relieve that feeling.

Finally, there is “unhappy money,” such as a life insurance settlement that reminds you of a loved one’s passing. We’re more likely to spend this on utilitarian or even virtuous purchases to dampen our negative feelings about a windfall, research shows.

A Personalized Approach
Another concept, financial psychology, speaks to the ways a client’s relationship with money was shaped throughout their lives, as well as the ways that relationship influences their life and finances today. With an understanding of a client’s psychology, it’s easier to come up with strategies to manage their stress and safeguard their well-being.

eMoney research shows that “under-standing their financial stress” is important to most people and plays a strong role in personalizing the financial planning process. Having a firm grasp of financial psychology can help you lead a conversation with a client and find areas where they may need help.

As the quarterback of a client’s finances, you can also bring special teams into the relationship from outside—a therapist, for example.

Whether you serve athletes or other clients dealing with windfall money, or whether you merely aspire to serve them, a greater understanding of behavioral finance and financial psychology can help you further personalize your planning process.

Emily Koochel, Ph.D., is the head of financial wellness programs at eMoney Advisor.